Blood Bond


THE TABLE IS LADEN WITH FOOD-A PLUMP ROASTED turkey, bowls of potatoes, steamed carrots shiny with butter, green beans in a casserole crusted with onion rings. In the center of the table, a simple salad in a broad wooden bowl-various greens and kale and still-warm-from-the-garden tomatoes with a dressing made from freshly pressed olive oil and one of Dad's wines. The aroma from the breadbasket tempts even me. Thick slabs of a hearty, crusty baguette begging to be slathered with home-churned butter. Makes a vampire's mouth water.

Could be a typical American Thanksgiving feast.

Except that we're not in America. And this isn't Thanksgiving. It's my mother's wish.

I look around the table, my heart full. Dad is at one end, brandishing the carving knife like a miniature katana, much to the delight of John-John, sitting at his right, and Trish, sitting to his left. The kid's faces are alight with the simple joy of family together. Next to John-John, Frey watches, too, his wonderful smile a reflection of his son's. He has one of my hands clutched tightly in his own. Across from us, David and Tracey. Even they are smiling.

I sit, wishing the unbridled contagion of happiness would infect me.

But it won't.

It can't.

Mom leans toward me. She's next to me, opposite Dad, at a table in a storybook setting under big, broad-leafed trees in the backyard of their villa. She reaches for my hand.

I don't pull back. There's no longer any need. The coldness of my hand in the warmth of hers no longer requires fumbling excuses about poor circulation .

"Please, Anna," she says softly. "Don't be sad."

I meet her eyes, so warm and full of life. My heart beats with dull, irritating regularity in my chest. "This is so unfair."

She sits back, smiling. "How can you say that? Here we are together. You've found a wonderful man in Daniel and a child that will bring you as much pleasure as Trish has brought us. You have much to give the world. I am so proud of you."

I close my eyes, tears spilling over my cheeks, filled with so much sadness, my guts twist with it.

Mom reaches over again, touches the tears with the tips of her fingers. "No tears. This is a time of joy. A time to be together with no regrets. A time to make memories."

I take her hand in both of my own. "I love you."

"I love you, too, Anna."

Laughter from the other end of the table makes us look up. Dad has carved off a huge turkey leg and placed it on John-John's plate. John-John doesn't hesitate a moment, but scoops it up with both hands and takes a bite.

This time, a smile touches my lips, too. Mom is right. No tears today. They'll be plenty of time for tears later. When she's gone.

I'm both sad and elated.

I'm looking at my future. Here surrounded by those I love. These are the memories I'll cleave to in my lifetime.

More than a lifetime.

These are the memories I'll keep for an eternity.

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